Visions of Virtue in Popular Film

Visions of Virtue in Popular Film

Visions of Virtue in Popular Film

Visions of Virtue in Popular Film

Synopsis

Joseph H. Kupfer is professor of philosophy at Iowa State University.

Excerpt

The idea for this book began to take shape some time ago, when I noticed what I was thinking about in the weeks after seeing the film Jaws. I was preoccupied with the fact that the men with technical expertise fail to kill the monstrous shark and that the successful Chief Brody has little more than his virtuous character to recommend him for the task. Thinking about the variety of Brody's virtues led me to look more thoughtfully at other popular Hollywood films. I found that close viewing revealed many of the movies contained much more than met the eye and that taking note of the philosophical ideas in these films made them more enjoyable. Since that time, my attention has gravitated to popular films with a decidedly moral content, especially movies in which virtue appears to be the crux of the story.

The films discussed here were made primarily to entertain and only secondarily, if at all, to edify their audiences. However varied in tenor, style, or genre, the films are of a piece in endorsing a salutary conception of the virtues. I do not analyze films that focus on antiheroes or the failure of virtue or the failure of people to be virtuous. These are important topics in their own right, but they are for a different book. I also avoid such classics as It's a Wonderful Life or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as well as more recent biographies that are testaments to people of stellar moral character. Beckett, Gandhi, and Schindler's List, for instance, seem designed to illustrate virtues and vices, if not moral theories about them.

This book addresses movies that have not received the philosophical interpretation classic American films have received, or that do not lend themselves as readily to moral analysis as such foreign gems as La Strada . . .

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